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THE FIRST GOLD DISCOVERY
MR. H. FRENCHAM'S CLAIM.
The select committee appointed to inquire into the petition of Mr. H. Frencham, who claims to have been the first discoverer of gold at Bendigo, commenced the taking of evidence at Parliament - house yesterday. There were present — Mr. Bailes, M.L.A. (chairman), Messrs. Cameron, Bennett, Bur- rowes, Gurdon, A. Young, and Foster, M.L.A.'s.
Harry Frencham, who was the first witness called, said he was agent and correspondent for The Argus at Ballarat in 1851. He wrote to Mr. Edward Wilson resigning his position, and went to Castlemaine, or Forest Creek as it was then called, where on November 7, 1851, he received a reply from Mr. Wilson. He stayed about a week at Forest Creek, and then set out to prospect at a place where he thought it was likely gold would be found— the place which afterwards developed into the Bendigo gold-field. The only people witness saw at the creek where he com- menced operations were two women, Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Farrell, who, he sup- posed, were washing for gold, although he
never saw any.
Mr. GORDON.—Someone must have got gold there to induce them to set to work.
Witness said they did not tell him any- thing about that. He saw them two or three, days after his arrival there, and a day or two later he saw two men in the creek who, he supposed, were the women's husbands. Witness was able to report the discovery of gold to the commissioner at Castlemaine about 1st December, 1851, and on 9th De- cember he wrote an account to The Argus, which appeared in the issue of the 13th De-
Mr. GORDON.—How many days were you in Bendigo before you discovered gold ?
Witness was not there a day before he got gold, but not enough to satisfy him and cause him to bring up his party.
To Mr. FOSTER.—When witness reported the discovery he took down 36lb. of gold. The field at that time was called Gibson's Station. A shepherd, however, told witness it was known as Bendigo. The letter witness wrote to The Argus was carried by Captain Harrison, who was present at a meeting of miners held to protest against the increase of diggers' license flees. This was about 10 days after the discovery, and there were about 200 at the meeting.
To the CHAIRMAN.—The first man who told witness about Bendigo being a good place to prospect in was Frank M'Donough, and it was on the latter's suggestion he went. There was a man called "One-armed Byas" staying at the station, but witness remem- bered nothing particular about him. Ross and Atkinson, two of witness's mates, went to bring up the party after the discovery, and they were all together on the creek at White Hills on 30th November, 1851. A day or two later a black trooper showed Ross where he had got gold in the grass, in what was after- wards known as Golden Gully. They were on good payable gold at the creek, about half a mile from the gully, but some of the party went off prospecting elsewhere.
The CHAIRMAN.—Which was it you re- ported in The Argus, the gold you were getting in the creek or that you were getting in Golden Gully?
Witness reported to The Argus that Frencham's party were doing best on the field, none of the men getting less than 6½oz. a day. It was the creek gold that was referred to.
To Mr. GORDON.—The others with witness at the time were equally entitled to the
honour of the discovery. Witness's claim was made for himself alone, but he men- tioned Ross and Atkinson in his statement. They were dead, however, and a reward would be no good to them.
Mr. FOSTER.—I suppose they have repre-
Witness did not know. His application was not made until 1867 owing to his being unable to find Atkinson.
Benjamin Dodds, engineer, gave evidence that at the latter end of November, 1851, he was working at Specimen Hill, at the head of Barker's Creek, when he and his mates were advised to get away to Bendigo as quick as they could and ask for Frencham's claim. They started the next day, and following the dray tracks came upon Frencham's party working at the rocks near the mouth of Golden Gully. A man named Tom Morrah and his mates, who were working near, took out 36lb. weight of gold from one dish. Wit- ness pegged out a claim just below, which was called Boxtree claim. It was a beautiful creek where Frencham was working, fringed with wattles, and everything in a virgin state. Frencham was looked upon there as the first discoverer. The rocks where he was working were about three miles from
the White Hills.
At this stage the committee adjourned until Thursday next.